Nine points down after an hour, reduced to 14 players, Glasgow Warriors left their defensive frailties and ill-discipline behind them to carve out victory away to Connacht. Dave Rennie liked what he saw.
The sin-binning of Adam Hastings for a high tackle in the 58th minute presented in-form Jack Carty with the chance to put Connacht 12 points clear, but his kick from the right was off target. Instead of falling further behind while a man down, Adam Ashe scored the game’s final try in that ten-minute period to give Glasgow hope.
Back to their full complement, their dander was up. Despite some excellent Connacht defence holding solid for one spell of 28 phases in their own 22, the inspirational Stuart Hogg slotted a drop goal with six minutes remaining to take the lead for the final time.
There were a few scrapes in the final minute as Craig Ronaldson was well short with an ambitious drop goal and then shaved the post with a last-gasp penalty, but Rennie was thrilled to see the hunger that his side showed in that final quarter.
“I would have rather at the end if we had won that lineout and ran it into touch but it’s not the way we do things, we kept it entertaining for an extra three or four minutes, unfortunately,” said Rennie.
“We had to hang on, the referee apologised afterwards over the penalty because he [Nick Grigg] was legally on the ball, he did everything right so I wouldn’t have been critical of him had the penalty gone over. Probably a fair result in the end.”
Tommy Seymour, George Turner and Ryan Wilson ran in the first-half tries but Warriors still trailed 23-17 at the interval.
After the comeback they had mustered it would have been harsh on Warriors to lose at the death, especially considering they bossed the first half, scored four tries to Connacht’s two and held Connacht to just three second-half points.
“For big chunks of the game, it flowed at times so the team in position got rewarded with penalties, we started getting on to the ball more in the last period and got the lineout try,” said Rennie.
“We were probably more composed then than in other periods of the game. We attacked and had a crack at it sometimes when we just needed to play territory and force some more pressure.
“We did it well at times in the first half and it took us 20 minutes to get going and do anything in the second half. We’re a fit side though. I thought we defended better in those last five minutes than we did the whole game.
“We showed a lot of character with 20 minutes to go, down to 14 men and nine points behind on the scoreboard in that period when Adam was sin-binned so obviously that was crucial.”
After a mixed pre-season where a huge win over Harlequins was followed by a big loss to Northampton Saints, Saturday’s win was the first of ten games in as many weeks as the Pro14 and Champions Cup campaigns gain momentum.
This time last year a win at the Sportsground propelled Warriors on a run of ten league wins in a row and, next Friday night, Scotstoun will be packed as Munster roll into town.
“We know it’s not about how you start the season, it’s about how you finish but you’ve got to pick up points along the way, so to get five points away from home is important,” said Rennie.
“I imagine there will be some other sides who’ll come here and struggle so we’re happy to get this start with a short turnaround to Munster next week at home. [We’ll have to improve] bits of all areas. The scrum was really solid, our lineout drive was excellent.
“We probably need to be more patient and, defensively, there are areas to improve as there was not enough line speed and not enough dominance in the tackle.
“If we can improve in those areas, we’ll be hard to score against.”